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Senate confirms Paul Fioravanti to Chancery

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Gov. John Carney, left, poses with Paul Fioravanti Jr. following his confirmation to the Delaware Court of Chancery on Jan. 15. | PHOTO COURTESY OF GOVERNOR’S OFFICE

DOVER – The state Senate unanimously confirmed Paul Fioravanti Jr. to the vacant Vice Chancellor of the Court of Chancery seat following a hearing Wednesday, Jan. 15.

Gov. John Carney nominated Fioravanti to fill the seat seat left open by the promotion of former Vice Chancellor Tamika Montgomery-Reeves to the Delaware Supreme Court. The Senate Executive Committee wasted no time in holding Fioravanti’s confirmation hearing, scheduled it for the second day of the 2020 legislative session.

“Paul’s litigation experience and judgment will serve our state well on the Court of Chancery – our country’s premier venue for corporate litigation,” Carney said in a statement after the confirmation. “I want to thank members of the Delaware Senate for considering and confirming his nomination.”

Since February 1999, Fioravanti has practiced with the Delaware law firm Prickett, Jones & Elliott, P.A. As a partner of the firm, he focuses on corporate and commercial litigation in a variety of business matters, including mergers and acquisitions, fiduciary duty obligations, corporate governance, books and records demands, officer and director advancement and indemnification, special committee investigations, and LLC litigation. He served as the firm’s managing director from 2011 to 2014.

“Mr. Fioravanti has been our colleague at Prickett, Jones & Elliott for more than 20 years, with a practice focusing on corporate and business litigation. Prickett Jones, which was founded in 1888, attributes much of its longevity and success to the long-term relationships it has been fortunate to have with distinguished lawyers like Mr. Fioravanti. We congratulate our colleague and friend on this nomination,” the firm wrote on its website after the announcement of Fioravanti’s nomination.

Previously, Fioravanti held positions as a reporter and editor for KYW Newsradio and as a Washington, D.C., correspondent. He would later go on to be a co-author of the annual Review of Developments in Delaware Corporation Law from 2002 through 2010, and was the former editor-in-chief of the Maryland Law Review. 

Born in Wilmington and a graduate of Salesianum High School, Fioravanti earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Delaware. Fioravanti earned his law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law.

Like Montgomery-Reeves, Fioravanti is a registered Democrat, fulfilling Delaware’s requirement to have politically balanced courts.

Fioravanti is the second judicial nomination of someone with long ties to Prickett, Jones & Elliott, P.A. by Carney after he nominated Gary Traynor to the Supreme Court in 2017. Traynor had left the firm by then to serve as an assistant public defender in Sussex County, but previously spent 25 years at the firm.

Prickett Jones has other ties to the state courts, as Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock III and Superior Court judges Sheldon Rennie and William Witham Jr. spent time at the firm as well.

The opening on the Court of Chancery was a byproduct of the retirement of former Chief Justice Leo Strine Jr., who stepped down from the Supreme Court’s top role at the end of October. Carney then appointed Justice Collins J. Seitz Jr. to fill Strine’s seat, and Montgomery-Reeves to fill Seitz’s seat.

After Seitz and Montgomery-Reeves were confirmed by the Senate in November, little was said publicly about the search for a replacement on Chancery, one of the most important courts in the nation due to its status as being the first stop in many corporate litigation cases.

When there is a vacancy on one of Delaware’s courts, the Delaware Judicial Nominating Commission screens candidates and submits at least three names to the governor. The governor selects a nominee, which must be confirmed by a majority vote in the Delaware Senate. Once approved, judges serve 12-year terms.

Seitz took his oath of office in a small ceremony on Nov. 8 at the Historic Courthouse in Old New Castle, forgoing a public investiture. Montgomery-Reeves, the state’s first black Supreme Court judge, privately took her oath of office Dec. 5, but also held a public investiture ceremony on Jan. 3 at Howard High School in Wilmington.

Fioravanti will join Chancellor Andre G. Bouchard and vice chancellors Glasscock, J. Travis Laster, Joseph R. Slights III, Kathaleen St. J. McCormick and Morgan T. Zurn on the Court of Chancery.

Fioravanti’s nomination did receive some criticism not for his credentials or background, but because Carney did not nominate a minority candidate to fill the seat of Montgomery-Reeves, who was the first black vice chancellor in the court’s history. Well-known civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton made stops in Delaware in recent months calling for increased diversity on the state’s courts, an effort supported by an advocacy group formed by TransPerfect employees who feel aggrieved by their treatment by the court during a contentious ownership case heard by the Court of Chancery in recent years.

On the day of Fioravanti’s confirmation hearing, Sharpton protested to be heard by the Delaware Senate prior to their vote, but was denied. In a statement released after Fioravanti’s confirmation, Sharpton said, “Diversity transferred is not diversity created or advanced. Delaware must do better.” He vowed to continue discussion the issue with Carney and the legislature.

By Jacob Owens


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